Definition of curfew in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkərˌfyo͞o/


1A regulation requiring people to remain indoors between specified hours, typically at night: a dusk-to-dawn curfew the whole area was immediately placed under curfew
More example sentences
  • The lists of candidates, their names and manifestos, were all but invisible and a strict curfew was imposed.
  • All exits from the city were totally blocked from the morning and an indefinite curfew was imposed from 6pm.
  • As with many parks around the city, a midnight curfew is imposed.
1.1The hour designated as the beginning of a curfew: to be out after curfew without permission was to risk punishment
More example sentences
  • The camp compensated by making a later curfew for those on time off.
  • He walks further until one o'clock in the morning (past the curfew for apprentices) and ends up in the graveyard in Copp's Hill.
  • My curfew was usually midnight, but not for dates.
1.2A daily signal indicating the start of curfew.
Example sentences
  • It wasn't long until the curfew bang sounded and we were shuffled out once again.
  • The execution was to take place at the ringing of the evening curfew bell.


Middle English (denoting a regulation requiring people to extinguish fires at a fixed hour in the evening, or a bell rung at that hour): from Old French cuevrefeu, from cuvrir 'to cover' + feu 'fire'. The current sense dates from the late 19th century.

  • Today a curfew is sometimes imposed during periods of emergency or conflict, as a way of keeping people off the streets, usually at night. In the Middle Ages, though, the curfew was the time by which people had to put out or cover the fire in their hearth—the objective was not to keep order but to stop houses burning down. Curfew is an Old French word, from cuvrir ‘to cover’ and feu ‘fire’.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: cur·few

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